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Etsy Seller Gets Her Handmade Goods onto Retail Shelves

Lisa DiSciascio operates Starlight Woodsselling eco-friendly jewelry and accessories made from storm-damaged tree branches. From a simple project started at her kitchen table with her two girls, Lisa’s business has grown thanks to the help of Etsy and her own ecommerce website.

For the past year, Lisa has been using Etsy Wholesale, which just launched out of beta testing last week. She explains how she has used the platform to expand the sales of her products and how she turned her jewelry business into a brand that has been featured in Real Simple magazine as well as being recognized as one of the top 100 finalists for the Martha Stewart American Made award.

Her items are carried by 25 small boutiques and a few online sites.

In what area of the country do you live, and what inspired you to launch your product line?

Lisa DiSciascio: I live in the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania. I have always loved working with wood, both my brother and stepfather are carpenters and have always brought home their scraps for me to make things with.

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Making old work out things new is what really excites me. I made our kitchen table out of some old butcher block shelves from a torn down liquor store. They were not pretty but I saw the beauty underneath it all.

Starlight Woods started from left overs as well, leftovers from storms. We have some wild storms towards the end of the summer lately and left behind are loads of branches blown down from 60+ mph winds.

One storm in particular, not only left branches everywhere, but tore down whole trees and took our power out for over a week. During that time with two kids, we were obviously looking for ways to keep busy. We did have a generator, but it only powered a few things at a time. One of those things one day was a table saw. With all those downed branches, they seemed like the perfect material to create with. So we started making key chains.

Spread out all over the kitchen table were paints, cut up magazines, slices of tree branches and me and my two girls. It was pure fun – giggly, silly fun. After that day, we just kept creating and each piece inspired another and soon our business was born.

Once you sell through Etsy Wholesale, does Etsy allow you to continue to operate your retail shop on Etsy?

Lisa DiSciascio: Yes, my Etsy retail shop is completely separate from my wholesale and I will continue to run both sides of my business.

How many inquiries from retailers did you get through the beta Etsy Wholesale beta program (and when did you join)?

Lisa DiSciascio: I joined Etsy wholesale at the very beginning and I received quite a few inquiries over the last year from the beta program as well as through my Etsy retail shop.

Have you made wholesale sales through the program? What kind of fees is Etsy charging for wholesale orders?

Lisa DiSciascio: I have made many sales as well as moving my existing customers over to Etsy wholesale. Etsy wholesale is a very user friendly site, and I wanted to provide my customers with an easier more streamlined way to order. Etsy wholesale charges 3.5% per order, which is the same as Etsy retail. (Note from the editor: Etsy now charges a one-time fee of $100 for joining its wholesale program.)

Do retailers expect to be able to return goods that don’t sell, and how do you handle that?

Lisa DiSciascio: I have not had any customers return goods that have not sold. I suggest to customers that they start out with a small order (12 pieces) to test out my product in their store, and from there, they can decide if they would like to place a larger order. 9 times out of 10, they reorder.

I imagine there are many challenges in wholesale, what advice would you give other sellers who are interested in selling wholesale?

Lisa DiSciascio: Most importantly, someone interested in selling wholesale would have to look at their pricing and see if wholesale would work for them at their current pricing.

Industry standard for wholesale is 50% of retail. If you look at your pricing and find you could not sell wholesale at 50%, then you either need to evaluate your pricing and process, or maybe wholesale is not the right path for your product.

Wholesale is a great way to get your brand out there, and it is a great supplement to your income, especially during slower times for retail. Your line needs to constantly evolve as well. My customers are always looking to see new designs, colors, seasonality… all of these things keep interest.

Anything else you think sellers might want to know about the program and about your experiences with it?

Lisa DiSciascio: Etsy Wholesale has proved to be a constantly growing and evolving program. Etsy staff has listened to our opinions, needs and wants and incorporated them into the program. The process is easy, transferring Etsy retail listings over to wholesale is simple, which I love.

They have more improvements in the pipeline as well, and many opportunities and connections to get our product out there even further.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.